BY PAUL BICKLEY
After Bloomington interior designer Lauren Cowan worked with older clients who wanted their new-home builds to include age-friendly features, she and her husband, Peter Cowan, decided to start a new business. “Age-friendly designing is stimulating and meaningful,” says Lauren.
The couple, both 59, had moved to Bloomington from the San Francisco Bay Area, and after 24 years in education, Peter decided to return to building and remodeling. In 2012, they launched Agewise Design at 2550 N. Browncliff Lane.
The company designs and builds aging-in-place spaces, enabling people to live in their homes longer. Most clients are age 55 to 75. Projects range from installing bathroom grab bars to designing and building major modifications.
“The work pictured on our website is higher-end, but we do all kinds of jobs,” Peter says. Agewise Design widens doorways; builds low, wide steps; and installs handrails and ramps. Popular products include lower, modular, multi-use kitchen cabinets and zero-entry showers.
“We meet short-term needs flexibly, [in order] to meet long-term needs,” Peter says. The company goes beyond designing and building by observing how clients use spaces, then modifying accordingly.
They also ask clients how they want assistance from helpers. For example, they have moved sinks that stood next to toilets because the client would prefer to be helped from the side rather than be pulled up from the front off the toilet and into the helper. “It makes people feel less diminished,” Lauren says.
The company’s biggest job so far has been installing a ceiling track system between a bedroom and a bathroom for a client with multiple sclerosis. In an arm-freeing sling, the client moves herself with a remote control; the track allowing her to make 90-degree turns. She bumps the bathroom sink to turn on the water, which is set at a constant temperature. Before, her family had to move her with an engine lift, and the sling pinned her arms overhead. “When you give people back something taken from them,” Lauren says, “they gain some independence.”
Those interested can request a free, no-obligation home assessment. “We show people what living at home can look like,” says Lauren.
Visit agewisedesign.com for more information.